Appalachian Basin

Gas Odyssey: A Real Teaching Tool, A Beautiful Thing!

One of the perks of my job is that there are a ton of movies and books out on the subject of the Marcellus Shale, both good and bad, and every once in a while I get to spend an afternoon relaxing watching a film or reading a book to write a post about it. Last week, I got to do just that when the director of Gas Odyssey, Aaron Price, shared his film with me.  This film was not sensationalized or filled with the emotional drama that Gasland is, but was instead a true documentary that allowed people to speak for themselves about the topic of Marcellus Shale and how it is, or could be, impacting their communities.

Now, before I tell you my reactions to the movie, I have to share with you a little about who watched it with me. My 12 year old sister, Morgan, who aspires to be a singer, dresses in what I suppose is fashionable for kids these days (even though I guess I am getting too old to relate to her unique fashion sense), and will never pick the History Channel over MTV.  She happened to be at my house for the day and agreed to watch it with me. She is not the type to sit down and watch a documentary outside the confines of school, and that’s what made her reaction to the film so priceless.

She loved it! Not in the sense of “that was an awesome movie with a lot of emotion and action,” but she was asking questions throughout to get more clarification, talking about the different conversations they have in her school about it, and truly touched by the situation facing New Yorkers. She kept saying, “Nothing bad is happening around here, so why won’t they let them drill already?”

And she even said it would be a great film for her teachers to show to get students talking about the issue and what they are seeing happening around them. We live in Hughesville, PA, a part of Lycoming County, where gas drilling has been going on pretty extensively over the last couple of years.

I have to admit I was floored because this is so far out of her normal interests and I thought for sure she would be begging me to put on something else because she lives for entertainment. So Aaron, thank you for giving my sister and I the tool to have a great conversation. Her only request is that someone please get her a t-shirt that says, “Pass Gas, It’s a Movement” because she thought it was hilarious and would be proud to tell others about what is happening in New York.

With that said, here are my own reactions to the film and the accompanying teacher’s guide.

Gasland is being shown in classrooms to describe the Marcellus Shale play and the fantastical “horrors” that can happen if we allow it to continue. It’s emotional and exciting and will leave people weeping, but it’s a far cry from the truth of what is taking place in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, Southern Tier of New York or other places within the Marcellus Shale play. It’s all very Hollywood, and while entertaining, not the first film I would pick up to show my students a part of history unfolding.

Gas Odyssey on the other hand is a documentary that has been made for the classroom. It is divided into four segments to fit with a normal classroom period and even has an accompanying teacher’s guide. In it you hear from people in Susquehanna County, PA, where drilling is occurring extensively, and some Broome County New York locals talking about what it could mean for their communities. They show Elk Lake School District that has wells on school grounds, high school students who’s after school jobs take them on site, business owners and local officials who discuss the positive and negative impacts to the community and even some lawyers. There are a plethora of people shown.

The film addresses everything from the economic impact (or lack there of in New York because of the moratorium)to  traffic and road repairs to water withdrawal and waste management. It also has footage from local hearings and news casts that have showed both sides of the argument. There isn’t much Price didn’t ask about or think to include.

The most important aspect of it, from a classroom perspective, though, is the teacher’s guide. In it, Price, gives key terms used in each segment and a glossary to help define these for students. He offers suggested questions and activities, such as holding a mock hearing in the classroom to assist teachers in creating lesson plans for the topic. He also includes links to books and websites that can offer supplemental maps and further information for the students to look up. The 22 page guide was very impressive and would greatly help lessen the burden of any teacher looking to discuss the Marcellus in his or her classroom.

All in all I found it to be very educational and a realistic representation of the issues facing New York and Pennsylvania as the Marcellus Shale play takes off. I would strongly recommend it for any classroom!

Teachers and librarians can purchase Gas Odyssey Director’s Cut With Teacher’s Guide through Follett Library Resources at


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